Even With Q1 Newspaper Revenue Down, ‘Toronto Star’ Parent Says ‘Worst Behind Us’

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By: E&P Staff

Torstar Corp., publisher of Canada’s largest daily, the Toronto Star, reported a wider first-quarter loss as newspaper revenue fell 11% on big hits to employment, real estate and automotive classifieds.

Departing Torstar President and CEO Robert Prichard said the losses would have been worse, but for the growth at its Harlequin unit, which publishes romance novels.

“The first quarter was a tale of two solitudes: Harlequin delivered an excellent quarter of growth while our newspaper businesses confronted lower advertising revenues as a result of the recession,” Prichard said.

But he added that Torstar expects to “reduce percentage declines” in the newspaper business during the rest of the year as the recession eases and newsprint prices come down.

“Looking forward, we are cautiously optimistic the worst is behind us,” he said in a statement.

For this quarter, however, “aggressive cost management” at its newspaper unit — which includes the Ontario papers The Hamilton Spectator and Guelph Mercury — was “insufficient to prevent a sharp drop in profitability.”

Prichard stepped down after seven years as CEO at Wednesday’s Torstar annual meeting in Toronto. Torstar’s CFO David Holland was named interim president and CEO.

Former Toronto Star Publisher John Honderich took over as chairman of the Torstar board.

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